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2005 Energy — Co-winner 2

City of Revelstoke, British Columbia

Revelstoke Community Energy System

Population: 7,500

Revelstoke's community energy system (CES) incinerates wood waste from the local forestry industry to produce energy, while eliminating many of the common air pollutants associated with burning wood waste by other methods. The CES produces low-pressure steam for a local sawmill's dry kilns, as well as hot water heating, which is distributed through an underground pipeline to buildings in the city's centre. The sawmill-the energy system's primary customer-has signed 20-year agreements to supply the wood waste and buy the energy produced. The city estimates the plant will cut annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 4,000 tonnes.

Background

Revelstoke is a forestry town. The forest industry typically disposes of wood waste by burning it-a practice that sends fly ash and other emissions into the atmosphere. This practice, along with the emissions from residential wood-burning stoves and the transportation sector, was having a detrimental effect on local air quality.

In 2000, Natural Resources Canada completed a pre-feasibility study of various community energy systems that could be used in the City of Revelstoke. Community energy systems distribute steam or hot water to multiple buildings from a central plant.


The study concluded that the energy produced from burning wood waste could be transformed into heat and electricity. A community energy system would also generate revenue for the municipality and improve air quality. In 2001, the city adopted its Community Development Strategic Action Plan, which included a recommendation to proceed with a district energy system.


"We've had the ambition, for quite some time, to capture the heat from the burner at the local sawmill," says Geoff Battersby, project coordinator. In the spring of 2001, the city issued a call for companies interested in taking on such a project, but an appropriate proposal did not materialize. FVB Energy Inc., a company that specializes in community energy systems, completed a second feasibility study a year later.

Results

  • The Revelstoke Community Energy System is the first wood residue-fired district heating plant in British Columbia.
  • The plant has a nine-year payback period, with a 6.7 per cent return on investment and a 14.8 per cent return on equity (a non-taxable source of city revenue).
  • Propane had been the fuel used to heat the mill, municipal facilities and high school. By eliminating the use of propane in these buildings, the community energy system will displace 4,000 tonnes of GHG emissions. Replacing the propane, which had been imported from Alberta, with a renewable energy source will also have local economic benefits, with more money staying within the community.
  • Plant emissions are expected to meet or exceed the provincial standards for air quality.
  • According to a study of 47 GMF projects conducted in May 2004 by an independent consultant on behalf of FCM, Revelstoke's community energy plant will eliminate more than 180 tonnes of particulate matter.
  • All of the plant's customers will benefit from stable, long-term energy pricing.
  • The underground distribution system includes a separate two-inch polyvinyl chloride (PVC) line to carry fibre optic cable for telecommunications in the future. 

Lessons Learned

  • HIRE THE BEST. Geoff Battersby admits that the city "floundered a bit at first, but once we hooked up with FVB Energy, things went much smoother. It's a credit to them and to our construction manager that we came in on budget."
  • USE AN INTEGRATED DESIGN APPROACH. By planning the entire project at the beginning and keeping all stakeholders apprised of developments, the construction team was able to pre-order most of the major equipment, which helped meet the project timeline and keep the project on budget.
  • BE WILLING TO CHANGE DIRECTION. Revelstoke was reluctant to abandon its original plan to produce both heat and electricity from the plant, but when confronted with the cost and the risks to Downie, it recognized that it had to alter course. In the end, the community energy system is a win-win situation for all those involved: revenue for the city, stable energy prices for Downie and cleaner air for the entire community.

Partners

  • Downie Sawmill
  • FVB Energy Inc.
  • Revelstoke Credit Union
  • Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation
  • Green Municipal Fund
Page Updated: 21/12/2015